Individuals affected by infantile spasms (IS), such as those carrying mutations in an IS-linked gene, neural precursor cell expressed developmentally downregulated gene 4-like (Nedd4-2), exhibit developmental delays and learning disabilities, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. Using conditional Nedd4-2 knockout mice, we uncover that Nedd4-2 functions to maintain the excitatory synapses in hippocampal neurons and allows for late-phase long-term synaptic potentiation (L-LTP) at Schaffer collateral synapses in the hippocampus. We also find that Nedd4-2 is required for multiple forms of hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Mechanistically, we show that loss of Nedd4-2 leads to a decrease in actin polymerization caused by reduced phosphorylation of the actin depolymerizing protein cofilin. A cell-permeable peptide promoting phosphorylation of endogenous cofilin in Nedd4-2 knockout neurons restores the number of hippocampal excitatory synapses and hippocampal L-LTP and partially restores hippocampus-dependent learning in mice. Taken together, our results reveal a novel mechanism underlying IS-associated learning disabilities and may provide information for future therapeutic strategies for IS.
EMBO reports, August 3, 2021 - https://doi.org/10.15252/embr.202152645